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The Constitutionality of Ohio's Early Release Options

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An Ohio prosecutor is challenging a procedure that allows prison directors to recommend early release of certain prisoners. The challenge alleges that these early release recommendations violate constitutional separation of powers.

Currently, Ohio law permits prison directors to make recommendations to judges on which prisoners could be released early, namely, prisoners who have served at least 80 percent of their sentence.

The motion to strike down this law was filed in Scioto County court earlier this month. The prosecutor that filed the complaint says that the power to exercise early release of prisoners lies with the judiciary and the judiciary alone.

This and other early release options were introduced in 2011 when the state was trying to reduce prison spending. Since these programs were implemented, 414 low-level Ohio inmates were released early.

The director of the Ohio Judicial Conference said in response that lawmakers had addressed the separation of powers issue, and that "The legislation was designed to give the judge very broad discretion as to whether the judge even wanted to consider the motion."

The outcome of this case is still pending in Scioto County court.